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Education Student Issues e-briefing: Special Educational Needs and Disability: the new code

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings


On 1 April 2015, the “Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years” (published in January 2015) came into force (the ‘new code’). 

This new statutory code replaces the previous code of the same title published by the Department for Education and the Department of Health in July 2014, which was valid until 31 March 2015 (the ‘old code’).

What are the differences?

Broadly speaking, there is little practical difference for education providers (including schools, further education colleges, sixth form colleges, academies, free schools, independent schools approved under section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014, pupil referral units and early years providers funded by a Local Authority) between the new and old code and the overarching principles remain the same, including the need to encourage participation in decision making from young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (‘SEND’) and their parents, increased collaboration between education, health and social care services, the need to secure high quality provision and preparing young people with SEND for adulthood.  However, we have set out below some of the general changes to be aware of. 

The main difference in the new code is the introduction of detailed guidance regarding youth custody and how young offenders with SEND should be treated.  When the Government was consulting on the need for special provision for youths in custody in 2014 and 2015, it was concerned that approximately 18% of children and young people in custody had special educational needs and over 60% had speech, language and communication needs.  There was therefore clearly a need to ensure that young people in youth custody were fully supported.  This has led to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Detained Persons) Regulations 2015 (and Sections 70-75 of the Children and Families Act 2014) coming into force on 01 April 2015. 

The requirement not to discriminate against a child, as a result of their disability, is also specifically stated in the new code.  There is also further guidance on the obligations of a local authority when administering personal budgets including when a local authority is required to prepare a personal budget in respect of a child with SEND.  In summary, young people and parents of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan have the right to request a personal budget which is a tailored plan that allows the young person and their parents to have a say in the exact provision received and how the funding allocated to them is spent.  It therefore promotes participation and independence.  

The “Parent Partnership Service”, which formerly provided information and advisory services to parents and young people with SEND, has also re-branded as “Information, Advice and Support Services”.  This service will be funded by local authorities.


Whilst the new code does not introduce widespread change for education providers, it is important that organisations become familiar with the new code as soon as possible to avoid any pitfalls.  For the avoidance of doubt, the new code sets out exactly to whom the guidance applies which includes, amongst others, local authorities, governing bodies of schools and colleges, academy proprietors, NHS trusts, local health boards, youth offending teams and the First-tier Tribunal (SEND).